• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Looking Back and Ahead

The path forward.

July 27, 2017

The Mathematical concept of “chaos” describes the hidden patterns underneath what appears to be random behavior. Central to this concept is the idea that small changes (such as butterfly wings flapping miles away) can have big effects. I found myself thinking of this recently as I marveled at the new direction my life will be taking in only a few weeks.

There were several turning points in my life that seemed completely random at the time, but, like those butterfly wings, had huge effects on my life, beginning with my struggles with my health in 1990. As things began to fall apart in my first job, I saw an ad in the paper for a professor with a Ph.D. in “Math or a Math related subject.” I debated for a while about whether I should apply for the job, but this position not only provided me a place to land to avoid being denied tenure, it also led to this job that has been my home for almost twenty years.

Years later, as I was working on creating a maternity policy for Ursuline College, I stumbled across a request for proposals for a book that was being written about academic mothers, called “Mama, Ph.D.” Again, I wondered whether I should submit something, but, again, I did, leading to a chapter in that book as well as the opportunity to write this blog for the last nine years. Because of new policies from the Higher Learning Commission that limit my role as a Math professor, my time as “Math Geek Mom” will soon end.

Since the fall of 2008, I have written a blog column here almost every Friday, and I must admit that I am going to miss it. Perhaps that is why I am planning to create a blog of my own, separate from IHE and Ursuline College, and not having to do with being a parent. It is time that my daughter be able to take her last steps into adulthood without her mother writing about her to the world. Instead, I will be, at least tangentially, writing about Economics.

In the years since I began writing this, life has unfolded. I earned the title of “Full Professor” and watched my daughter grown up. Early on, I wrote about how she needed me to save the stuffed animals she lost, and now she is a beautiful young woman who makes the honor roll and serves on student council. Soon, college will be in her future. And I watched first my grandmother, then my sister, and finally my mother pass from this life, as this column gave me a place to make sense of the loss and to grieve out loud. I will always be grateful for the readers who provided me a place for my tears.

As I wrote this column weekly, sometimes putting my heart into each keystroke, and sometimes just making my deadline, I started to think of myself as a writer, and, as my daughter became more independent, I began to take that role more seriously. With (some) newfound free time, I began to pound out fiction. I now have a book-length first draft of a historical novel and some outlines for a series of mysteries, set at a fictional college, which are solved using some obscure bit of knowledge provided by professors at that college. Alas, if I do get them published someday, my readers here may never know, as I plan on keeping my name of “Rosemarie Emanuele” for my professional work as an Economist and a professor.

Although I am sad that I will soon not be teaching as much Math, I am excited about the Economics classes I will teach this year. Along with Principles, I will also be teaching Health Economics, a topic that is very personal for me. As our M.B.A. is focused on being “socially conscious”, the course I will be teaching in there will weave topics about remedies for market failure into what otherwise will be a traditional Managerial Economics course. In many ways, this is exactly the course I wanted to teach when I decided, in the 1980s, to become an economist. I guess it took the “butterfly wings” of HLC’s new policies to get me here.



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